Anti-Corruption Commission unleashes war on ill-gotten wealth

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By Kenya Confidential Corruption Awareness Desk, Nairobi – March 18, 2022

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is linking three former governors and a sitting county boss to nearly half of the Ksh 25 billion wealth illegally acquired by public servants over the past short half a decade.

The EACC said it targets to recover Ksh 11 billion from former county bosses Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), Mike Mbuvi Sonko (Nairobi), Evans Kidero (Nairobi) and Moses Kassaine Lenolkulal, who is the current Samburu County governor.

Former Nairobi Governor Kidero never paid with bananas

“High impact investigations finalised include allegation of illegal and unexplained wealth against governors Ferdinand Waititu, Mike Sonko, Evans Kidero and Moses Kassaine…pending in court,” EACC chairman Eliud Wabukala said in an online presentation to the Senate Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights on Tuesday.

The commission also revealed that it is pursuing graft cases involving five other former and current governors, Principal Secretaries, Senators, MPs, and managing directors of State corporations among others.

The EACC did not provide names of the affected public officials who it claims have unexplained wealth worth Ksh 25.5 billion. The revelations by the EACC give a glimpse on how rogue public officials abused their offices to illegally amass staggering wealth, especially for the governors who have served for an average of four years only. Kenya governors have demonstrated how easily corruption enriches shameless public coffers looters.

Waitutu and Sonko, who came into office in August 2017, were impeached by County Assemblies and the Senate as Kiambu and Nairobi governors for gross violation of the Constitution and abuse of office. The EACC has since moved to court seeking to recover assets worth billions of shillings from the former county crooks.

Former Kiambu Governor Waititu political orphan

The EACC had earlier revealed in court that Kidero has assets worth Ksh 9 billion. The agency listed Ksh 1.2 billion Yala Towers in Nairobi’s entral business district as Kidero’s most prized assets. Kidero used to brag that he had worked for big companies and was never paid with bananas. Reliable sources say he was taking home Ksh 20 million every day from City Hall coffers for five years.

The commission further claimed Kidero also owns 50 rental units on Nairobi’s Riara Road estimated at Ksh 1 billion and another property known as Muthaiga Heights worth the same amount. This is in addition to 11 vehicles that include Range Rovers and Mercedes Benzes.

The EACC also targeted several multi-million shilling properties and buildings spread across the city that were alleged to be owned by Waititu. The properties include luxurious mansions that were reported to be under construction in Runda, Delta Hotel building located in Nairobi CBD and a luxurious hotel in Naivasha.

The commission equally trained its guns on Sonko’s property in Upper Hill, Nairobi, worth nearly Ksh 500 million. The property is situated along Matumbato Road — right behind the five-star Radisson Blu Hotel. In 2019, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) ordered the arrest of Sonko over the loss of Ksh 357 million of county funds.

The EACC wants Lenolkulal, who has an ongoing corruption case that saw him banned from office, to explain the source of unexplained assets totalling Ksh 661.2 million consisting of four pieces of land in Karen, Nairobi, luxury motor vehicles, personal bank accounts and M-Pesa deposits.

According to the commission, while the governor’s net salary for the period July 2013 to February 2019 was Ksh 42.3 million, he was able to acquire Ksh 703.5 million assets, leaving unexplained wealth of Ksh 661.2 million.

Yesterday, the EACC told the Senate committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights chaired by Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni that it had recovered assets worth Ksh 25 billion in the last five years and averted loss of Ksh 30.4 billion over the same period.

The EACC said that it traced 88 assets estimated at Ksh 25 billion. Mr Wabukala said 14 assets worth Sh9.4 billion were preserved while the commission filed 23 recovery suits with a total value of Ksh 5 billion. Assets recovered in the year 2019/20 amounted to Ksh 12 billion.

Other governors on the corruption wealth governors include Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru and Fahim Twaha of Lamu who have been recommended for prosecution.

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) Executive Officer Twalib Mbarak said the agency has forwarded Waiguru’s file to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Noordin Haji to approve charges against her.

Ann Waiguru tainted by corruption wherever she goes

“We had forwarded the file of Lamu governor for prosecution and now we have recommended Kirinyaga governor to be charged.  Her case started long ago and there are other governors under investigation,” said Mbarak.

He said the two are among three governors whose graft cases have been recommended for prosecution. Mbarak did not name the third governor. He said there are several county Chief Accounting Officers, Heads of State parastatals placed under investigations over corruption-related cases.

He spoke during the Eastern Africa Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (EAAACA) Annual General Meeting hosted in Kenya.

Mbarak also responded to claims by political leaders including Deputy President William Ruto, considered Kenya’s corruption grand master, who has accused the agency of being ‘captured by the State and weaponised to harass his political allies.’

EACC Mbarak spills corruption beans

“The commission is very neutral and is composed of people from all the ethnic communities. Even if we are being ‘used’, it is not practical to arrest a certain individual and within a month, we have a case taken to DPP for prosecution,” Mbaraka explained.

He said some of the political leaders implicated in graft cases are hoodwinking the public with allegations that they are being harassed for belonging to particular political alienation.

“There is a governor who said they are being victimized for changing their political backing but that is not true because we have investigated and we have our facts. We are waiting for the Director of Public Prosecution to give directions,” said the EACC CEO.

He added they have watertight graft cases against governors who have been charged and those who have been recommended to be charged over misappropriation of public resources.

“These governors we have charged are from both sides of the political divide. When a governor is stealing, they do not talk to the public but when they are arrested they start throwing political tantrums and we will not fall into their traps. When we are ready to charge you in court, bring your lawyers to defend your case,”  he said.

The agency boss decried that the biggest impediment in fighting graft in the political arena as the challenge of a ‘dirty’ political culture.

“You will find that the contestants with questionable moral characters are the ones being glorified and whom the public will vote in to run offices in August. We will red flag and publicise all the candidates with integrity issues with the EACC because the ultimate people to vet their leadership suitability will be the voters,” Mbarak said.

However, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) vice-chairperson Juliana Cherera said they cannot bar a suspect of a corruption case from vying unless they are convicted in a court of law. According to Mbarak, inadequate funds, human resources and the compromising of witnesses are major challenges in the fight against graft.

“We have cases that have collapsed due to lack of witnesses who are in some cases bribed to withdraw, others are taking decades in court,” he said without implicating judges and advocates who have been enriched by corruption cases.

The meeting brought together Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Djibouti, Burundi and South Sudan. It is the umbrella association of anti-corruption agencies in the region, aimed at advancing cooperation in the fight against graft.

The association’s president Ngor Kolong Ngor (South Sudan) said trade of stolen assets across the region has posed a major challenge in fighting graft. He specifically mentioned Kenya and South Sudan as key hot-spots of stolen assets, including real estate properties.

Need to kill the trend of corruption apathy

Kenya’s Chief Justice Martha Koome reiterated the need to kill the trend of ‘corruption apathy’ by the public in the graft battle.

“I believe that once people are convinced that a sincere and genuine effort to combat corruption is underway, they will respond and extend their full cooperation and resolving the problem,” avered Koome.

Koome called on the EAAACA member states to collaborate with the Judiciary by sharing information under the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network for Eastern Africa to accelerate effective tracing and recovery of proceeds of crime.